Monday, June 13, 2016

Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, priest and doctor of the Church

(I Kings 21:1-16; Matthew 5:38-42)

Very recently in the United States police brutality has been given notoriety.  Excessive use of force even to the point of killing suspected criminals has been exposed in the press.  To the extent that such cases are verified, they are rightly publicized and condemned.  In today’s first reading a case of abusive state authority is presented.  The gospel reading may cause wonder of what to do about it.

Jezebel relieves her pouting husband of frustration by using state authority to murder his nemesis.  The crime calls to heaven for redress.  In the gospel is Jesus demanding toleration of such outrage?  By saying, “’…offer no resistance to one who is evil,’” Jesus is announcing the end of retribution among his followers.  He is instructing them to become as patient with evildoers as their Father in heaven.

However, Jesus does not want us to abandon claims for justice.  We are to walk toward him with our paths enlightened by his love.  Yet the ground we trod is mired in violence from which we must be protected.  Jesus is not forbidding us from taking up this task.  But he is insisting that we do so with genuine care for our persecutors.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

( I Kings 19:9a.11-16; Matthew 5:27-30)

The “tiny, whispering sound” conveying the presence of the Lord to Elijah is better translated the “sound of silence.”  God visits him, as He does each of us, in the silent chamber of conscience where He tempers our pride and chastises our sloth.

The Lord’s question of Elijah, “Why are you here?” is both rhetorical and accusatory.  God knows well that Elijah has chosen to run away from his responsibilities as prophet.  Elijah must speak the word of God in order to turn the people’s hearts back to God.  But the prophet only complains about his lot: the people have abandoned God, they have killed God’s messengers, and they are presently hunting down Elijah himself.  God, however, does not condemn Elijah for irresponsibility and endless complaints.  He only re-commissions Elijah to carry out His will.

Sometimes we feel discouraged like Elijah.  Nothing seems to go right despite our efforts to please God.  We too complain about our situation and perhaps become cynical about possibilities for its improvement.  A generation ago Henry Nouwen wrote a pamphlet “From Resentment to Gratitude” which explored these feelings of frustration and anger that pervade contemporary life.  As an antidote, Nouwen prescribes humbly refocusing our perspective.  He writes that we must see “that our life is not an inalienable property to be defended but a gift to be shared.  Recognizing life for the gift that it is, we can leave behind our sulking to do God’s will.